November 30, 2018

Chicken and Dumplings with Mushrooms

You know how I know how winter snuck up on everyone? I got stranded in Atlanta and had to fly straight to Texas with all my sweaters instead of making a pit stop back in Chicago because of a blizzard. Sitting in 70-something-degree Texas makes me forget a bit, but as soon as I touch down in Chicago this weekend I know I'll be shivering all the way back to my apartment. But you know what makes cold days like that a little more bearable? Steaming hot comfort food. Nothing says comfort food like a hot chicken stew with fluffy carbs on top and a little bit of bacon secretly mixed in, which is why this recipe for chicken and dumplings will be at the top of my list for the months to come.

I love chicken and dumplings because I don't really know what it is. Is it a stew? Is it just a ton of gravy smothered on chicken? Probably both, which is why it tastes so good. Normally there's peas and carrots and celery and all sorts of vegetables, but what if you replaced them with bacon? I also throw in a ton of mushrooms so it's still somewhat healthy, though the key is to cook them in all the bacon and chicken drippings so none of that flavor goes to waste.

Like all good recipes, cooking the bacon is the first step. It makes it all crispy and yummy, you get something to snack on while you cook the rest of the dish, and it gives you a flavorful starting point for the other ingredients. I add chicken to the party next, which only adds to the bacon-y goodness. The mushrooms get cooked in all that liquid gold until they are tender, then I set them aside so they don't overcook. The onions go in whatever drippings are left plus some extra butter, which is used to start the roux. The garlic and flour go in and cook just for a minute before warm chicken broth is slowly stirred in. If you keep the broth warm and add it gradually, the gravy (hopefully) won't get lumpy on you. Once it comes to a boil, you can reduce it to a simmer then stir in your chicken and bacon and seasonings, though it helps to season with salt and pepper at every step along the way.

Once the stew/gravy simmers for an hour, you can shred that tender, juicy chicken and throw it back in the pot with the mushrooms and all their juices. That has to come back to a simmer so the dumplings can cook. Dumplings are basically just scoopable biscuits, so I combine flour, baking powder, and salt then stir in melted butter and milk. They puff up a lot, so only small dollops are necessary; I even found that my tiny cookie scoop gave me pretty hefty dumplings. They'll only cook through if you drop them into hot liquid and cover tightly to trap the heat and let them steam, but it only takes about 15 minutes more until you have soft, fluffy dumplings to smother in chicken stew/gravy. The only way I can think of to upgrade my standard roasted chicken with gravy is to add more gravy and maybe some bacon, so this dish is sure to please anyone who gets a little hangry on a chilly winter night.

8oz Bacon
1.5 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
12 oz Mushrooms, Sliced
1 Yellow Onion, Diced
2 T Butter
2 T Butter, Melted
3 Cloves Garlic
1 1/4 Cups Flour
4 Cups Chicken Broth, Warm
1 Bay Leaf
3 Sprigs Thyme
Pinch Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Cup Milk

Heat some oil in a large pot. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove, then chop when cooled.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Sear in the bacon fat until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Set aside.

Cook the mushrooms in the chicken/bacon fat for 5-8 minutes or until tender, seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Melt 2T butter in the pot. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 4 minutes or until translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in 1/4 cup flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Add the chicken, bacon, bay leaf, thyme, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Simmer for 1 hour, then shred the chicken and return to the pot along with the mushrooms and mushroom juices. Bring to a simmer.

Combine the remaining 1 cup flour, baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir in the melted butter and milk until just combined. Spoon into the simmering stew, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the dumplings are floating and fluffy.

Serves 6

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